India 169 for 6 (Karthik 55, Hardik 46, Ngidi 2-20) beat South Africa 87 (Avesh 4-18, Chahal 2-21) by 82 runs
It has taken him 16 years and 36 matches but finally, he has his first half-century in the format. And he scored it in India’s biggest win over South Africa and fifth-biggest in T20Is, to leave the series locked 2-2 ahead of Sunday’s finale.
Karthik’s milestone came in the final over, after a 65-run partnership, off just 33 balls, between Karthik and Hardik Pandya for the fifth wicket, which rejuvenated India after they came together at 81 for 4 in the 13th over. India scored 73 runs in their last five overs and finished on 169 for 6, which proved more than enough for their attack to defend.
On a surface with uneven bounce, most of India’s line-up struggled, until Hardik and Karthik came together. Hardik took on the spinners and the slower balls while Karthik was severe on anything that offered width, and they took India to a competitive total, albeit one they may have assessed as perhaps slightly under-par at the halfway stage. But in response, South Africa’s line-up was not able to adapt to the pace of the pitch or India’s bowling and were dismissed for their lowest total in T20Is.
They had one partnership of 20 but imploded from the moment their captain, Temba Bavuma, retired hurt with an elbow injury, and they lost their last five wickets for the addition of just 13 runs. Only three of their batters got into double figures. All of India’s bowlers, bar Hardik, conceded 5.25 runs to the over or less, but their stand-out was seamer Avesh Khan. He dismissed Dwaine Pretorius, who appears to have become a permanent pinch-hitter at No.3, in the final over of the powerplay, and then took three wickets in this third over to finish with career-best figures of 4 for 18.
Here’s looking at you, Lungi
We haven’t seen him play competitively since March, and not in a T20I since last July, and it was worth the wait. Lungi Ngidi looks fitter than before and has been working on his variations. In his first four deliveries (not counting the wide he started with) he sent down a short ball, an inswinger and two slower balls before erring with a half-tracker that Ruturaj Gaikwad hit behind point for four. Ngidi adjusted immediately and sent down a back-of-a-length ball that seamed away from Gaikwad, who nicked off.
His next over was laced with change-ups in length and pace and a demonstration in full commitment, when he fielded a drive from Ishan Kishan with his foot. Ngidi finished the over but left the field and returned later in the innings to deliver one over at the death, which ended up being the least expensive of the final three. He bowled the 19th and was pulled to square leg by Hardik for six, before Hardik top-edged him to deep backward point where Tabraiz Shamsi took a stunner. Ngidi conceded one boundary from the bat of Karthik but pulled it back to finish with a return of 2 for 20 in three overs.
Pant’s (not) on fire
It hasn’t been a good series for Rishabh Pant with the bat so far and, other than the lack of runs, what may concern him are the ways he has been getting out. In three of his four innings, Pant has been dismissed off wide deliveries outside the off stump, deliveries that could have been called wide had he left them alone. On this occasion, Pant got down on one knee to swipe a slower Keshav Maharaj ball over third man. He was early on the stroke and the ball ballooned to Dwaine Pretorius at short third man, strategically placed for exactly that. Maharaj celebrated like a plan had worked, because it had.
Bavuma’s body blows
Much like his opposite number, Bavuma also hasn’t seen the runs flow but his night ended worse than Pant’s when he had to retire hurt for his joint-lowest score of the series so far, 8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar began as he usually does, by moving the ball both ways, but he also got the ball to burst up from back of a length and surprise Bavuma, and then to keep low. In his second over, after Bavuma had again been deceived by one that kept low, Bhuvneshwar’s third delivery reared up and struck Bavuma on the left upper arm.
He received treatment on field and decided to continue, which seemed a sensible idea when, two balls later, he creamed a drive through the off side. But at the end of that over, Bavuma scampered through for a risky single and dived to make his ground. His arm hit the turf, but he continued. He faced one more ball before needing attention on-field. It seemed as though Bavuma and the medical staff were discussing how comfortably he could hold the bat and whether he could generate power to hit the ball. Bavuma decided against carrying on and left the field. He was seen with an ice-pack in the dressing room shortly after. Later in the innings, Marco Jansen was hit behind the ear by an Avesh bouncer, and though he passed his concussion test, he was dismissed off the next ball.
Chahal v Klaasen
In the first two T20I meetings between Heinrich Klaasen and Yuzvendra Chahal, in Centurion in 2018 and Cuttack last week, Klaasen scored 71 runs off 25 balls. But in their next two clashes, Klaasen has only nine runs off nine balls from Chahal and has been dismissed twice. So what’s happened? Well, the surfaces in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot have assisted spinners and Klaasen has been trying to attack Chahal outside off, without success. In the previous match, he reached for a full delivery to try to clear the off side and sent it to extra-cover and in this one, Klaasen was expecting the ball to turn away from him, as it did off the previous delivery, and set up for the sweep, but the ball went straight on and struck him on the front pad. He reviewed but replays showed it was going on to hit leg stump. Klaasen’s dismissal left South Africa 45 for 3 and prompted the collapse that cost them the game.